Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas of TLC fame has never judged a reality competition show, but she was intrigued by TruTV's "Fake Off," which debuts at 10 p.m. Monday, October. 27.
The groups who are competing to win on "Fake Off" are what some might call multi-media entertainers because they use various mediums to convey a message and entertain. Among the elements could be animation, puppetry, quick scenery shifts, shadow imagery, black-light technology and dance.
"It's all about different ways to tell a story," said James Sunderland, a producer for the show, which was shot in the spring at Atlanta Film Studios. They found 10 teams who had different strengths. Over eight episodes, the teams will be culled down to a winner, who pockets $100,000. He said the facilities were huge and gave them the teams plenty of space to rehearse.
In the case of 'Fake Off," the host gives them a theme (drama, "Titanic," video games, the Super Bowl) and five teams are tasked to create a two-minute show based on said theme. In that first episode, Chilli found the Titanic dance emotionally effective and the Super Bowl act creatively masterful, giving them a standing ovation. Each judge provides a score from 1 to 10 and the audience throws in their score as well.
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Chilli liked the fact the show was shot in Hiram (tax breaks!) so she could commute home every day. She saw many cool effects she said she could incorporate into a TLC show. "It's so fresh to see a show like this," she said. Her criticisms on the show, based on the first episode, were constructive and she gave all the acts in that episode at least an 8 out of 10.
She is no stranger to technology. TLC's classic "Waterfalls" video from the late 1990s featured some very cool special effects. She said that video cost upwards to $1 million. The acts on "Fake Off" are spending far less to execute the FX but of course, technology improvements have made it much easier to create visually cool effects. And to add to the pressure, each routine has to be done in just a week.
Her two fellow judges are Harry Shum Jr., who played Mike Chang on "Glee," and Michael Curry, a world-renowned visual and conceptual designer who has worked with Cirque du Soleil and the Lion King on Broadway, as well as tours for Cher, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. She called Shum sweet and charismatic and Curry a brilliant man in terms of staging.
Every year, "America's Got Talent" has a few of these acts. This season, none made the finals but a shadow-dancing group Blue Journey landed in the semifinals. Last year, the winner Kenichi Ebina used many styles that "Fake Off" acts use, including interacting with a screen. Season 7 featured two of these acts in the finals: iLuminate, a glow-light dance group which used kaleidoscopic effects and Sillhouettes, which used shadows to create illusions.
Chili is no stranger to reality TV. She and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins did one on UPN in 2005 called 'R U The Girl" in which TLC sought a (temporary) replacement for Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. (Nobody can really replace her and TLC hasn't really tried.)
In 2010 and 2011, she tried to find love over two seasons of "What Chilli Wants." She didn't. Last year, she came in sixth on "Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Food Cook Off." Earlier this year, she showed up on an Oxygen show "Celebrities Undercover," where she put on a fat suit to hear what fans said about her. (Nothing terribly bad.)
(In case you're wondering, I didn't ask her about the Pebbles lawsuit because I talked to her before I heard about it.)
She is still planning to make a reunion appearance in Atlanta of TLC but no dates have been set. She and T-Boz finished a tour earlier this year in Australia. The only downside: "It was winter down there. I hate being cold!" (Irony given her name.)
"Fake Off,' 10 p.m. Mondays, starting October 27, TruTV